Part hip-hop, part electronica, part experimental, the unique sound of Liston has already been highlighted by the likes of XLR8R and Chris Coco. He makes his debut on Constant Circles with a free download followed by an artist EP later in the year, so we invited him along for a chat & a guest mix on the radio show with Just Her.
Firstly, what is the story behind the name Liston and is this your first & only artist alias?
When I started producing on my computer I was making sample based hip hop and it was just for fun, however I needed a name to keep my tracks organised. The absolutely terrible name I chose was ‘Kredible’… When I began to make electronic music and put stuff out I realised I needed a name that didn’t make me cringe everytime I saw it. One of my favourite jazz musicians is Lonnie Liston Smith and one of my favourite boxers from when I was younger is Sonny Liston, I liked the name and I stuck with it. My productions do vary alot but I feel they still retain a certain style so I haven’t used any aliases just yet.
What is your background and how did you get into music?
I was raised on soul and hip hop from a young age, my Dad played guitar and sung in multiple bands so music has always been around me. I had saxophone lessons when I was 9 but I wasn’t really disciplined enough. I’d always enjoyed playing around on a keyboard so I started piano lessons at 12 and fell in love with it. I was mainly composing classical pieces as I had no idea how to make the music that I enjoyed listening to the most. I knew from a young age that I wanted to be a music producer but became abit lost in my late teens. When I became surrounded by underground electronic music at University it all changed and I fell back in love with the creative process.
Where are you based and how has your home country or town influenced your music & career?
I’m originally from York but I’ve been living in Leeds since I came to University. I think alot of the scenes in electronic music develop from the nightlife in the town/city, unfortunately in York the nights which actually focus on music are restricted to WMC’s and smaller venues. The majority tend to fade away and not get the attention they deserve. I’d always traveled to Leeds for artists or DJs but when I moved here some friends introduced me to the Dubstep scene that they were fully immersed in. It was an exciting hotbed of activity where it seemed like everybody was either a DJ or producer. This was definitely the most trans-formative experience during my time creating music and I would have never had that if I hadn’t moved.
How would you describe your sound – do you think your music falls into a particular genre?
Whenever I tell anyone that I make music they always ask what type of music or genre I make and I’m never sure what to say! I try to make music with soul and feeling, I’m obsessed with chords and they will always form the backbone of anything I do. Textures and layers are also very important to me, so whether the track is 90bpm or 130bpm I’ll always have certain elements in there.
You are making your debut on Constant Circles with your track “Clones” which is being given away as a free download in the lead up to your EP – it’s a beautiful track! How did you approach this project and how did the idea come together?
Thank you! This track actually came from realising that sometimes I can focus a little too much on the melodic structure. I wanted to put some of the soul I put into the synths into the rhythmic elements so I took the time to work on the groove between the kick and hats until I was happy with it. Also I’d just watched the film Interstellar for the third time and felt inspired to create something spacey and ethereal. I even sampled some of dialogue for the outro section!
Your EP is quite eclectic – what is your production process – is each project different? And what are your key pieces of studio kit?
Yeah each project I approach differently depending on how I feel. I will generally play around on a synth or keyboard until I find something I like then build from there. However on alot of my newer stuff I’ve been resampling myself. I make quite alot of short ambient tracks so I’ll take those and resample them in a similar method to how I used to chop samples for my old hip hop instrumentals. I think it’s important to switch up the creative process, I can sometimes find myself doing the same thing everytime and when I realise that I focus on changing it up. Most of my production past a point is just done in the box. Before that (especially with my ambient tracks) I record saxophone, guitar, keyboard and various percussion and play around with it endlessly. So in terms of kit there’s just my laptop, instruments, a condenser microphone and a SM58.
Tell us something that people won’t know about you?
This is an easy one and I will use the answer for any similar questions for the rest of my life. I got levitated by Derren Brown.
How did you put together your guest mix for the radio show & what have you included – any exclusives or surprises?
It’s a real mixture and epitomizes the various stuff that I draw inspiration from. There’s some older stuff, newer stuff and a few unreleased tracks by myself. I definitely switch it up more when I’m doing a mix for radio than if I was playing out, there’s quite a few genres in there and I enjoy the freedom. There’s definitely a few surprises hopefully in the best way possible!
Check out Liston’s guest mix on Constant Circles Radio with Just Her: